(All Album Reviews by maribor)
Joanne Hogg – vocals, keyboards
Dave Bainbridge – guitars, keyboards, bouzouki, mandolin
Troy Donockley – whistles, Uilleann pipes, bouzouki, guitars, keyboards, vocals, tofran
Frank Van Essen – drums, bodhran, shaker, violin, darabukka, finger cymbals, tambourine, viola, drum pads, tom toms,
Phil Barker – bass guitar
Guest: Heather Findlay – vocals (11)
Iona is a band that has been around quite a long time but it’s also sadly a band that has gone unnoticed. These guys deserve much more recognition than they get. They should be playing the big festival with the likes of Spock’s Beard and IQ. It is true that they’re a folk rock band, but I bet these guys can put on a great show because they truly know how to rock out as well.
It was a pleasant surprise when I first listened to the CD. In all honesty I expected it to be a lot more folky, similar to something like Magna Carta. I’m not trying to put down Magna Carta or anything, but I find these guys much more exciting. Their songs are very well crafted and the arrangements are as sophisticated as it gets.
At the core of this band, there are three wonderful multi-instrumentalists. Dave Bainbridge, Troy Donockley and Frank Van Essen are the ones who truly make the sound of Iona special. Even though Joanne Hogg and Dave Bainbridge are the ones who are responsible for most of the songwriting, it is the wide range of instrumentation that gives Iona a very recognizable touch.
It is obvious that one of the main influences in their music is Celtic folk music, yet their arrangements are very much based on rock music. There’s a great deal of electric guitar, synths and hard-rocking drums. This is wonderfully contrasted with traditional instruments such as Uilleann pipes, various whistles, violins, violas, and of course the greatest Celtic instrument of them all – the vocal chords. Joanne Hogg truly has a lovely voice, not unlike Christina from the band Magenta. It’s a pleasure listening to her soothing voice. However, the best segments are the ones when the electric guitar explodes into a fiery solo together with the Uilleann pipes. This truly smokes. Another great feature of this album is the balance between the more melodic vocal segments, the rocking solos, and the esoteric keyboard, violin and whistle parts. Just as a vocal melody ends, there’s already something new and different in store.
When I first read the promo sheet I was a bit sceptical because I sort of got the idea from reading it that this is a Christian rock band. Sometimes the lyrics of those kinds of artists can be a bit in your face (Neal Morse anyone?) or outright preachy. Luckily, Iona’s lyrics are nothing like this. They are refreshingly positive but without being oblivious to the problems in the world. They know that there are destructive people in the world, but they believe that the world will turn out alright in the end. They managed to convince even an eternal pessimist and sceptic like myself. If more people had the spirit of these guys, the world would be a pretty nice place to live in.
Another great album of 2006. Strongly recommended.